Needless to say, there’s no shortage of topics for companies to blog about in 2020 – some of which have been covered ad nauseum, others that we just can’t get enough of (for good reason), and others still that are fleeting (again, for good reason).

But there is one story that will have permanent relevance well beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, past the fallout from present-day political follies, and long after we recover from the economic and even environmental disaster of today: The human story.

What many of us have learned over the past six months (either by compulsion or by choice) is that uncertainty abounds and that it takes being real with ourselves and each other to get over, around, and through some of life’s most complex challenges.

On a personal level, I was navigating a COVID-related layoff, supporting a loved-one with COVID (which later turned into pneumonia), and parenting and teaching my young child, while simultaneously processing the political turmoil that has marked 2020. It was a confusing time for all. But I had a life raft; something that helped me keep my head above water when everything around me felt like stormy waters. It may sound trite and overstated, but the ballast that kept me stable was a deep-seated knowledge of who I was and what I stood for. I’m ever-so-grateful that I did the hard work of defining these guiding principles long before I truly needed to rely on them.

Defining your Personal Brand

To continue with my boating analogy, I was in my late 30s and adrift at sea without a clear sense of direction in either my personal or professional life. A mentor encouraged me to establish a set of elemental principles that could help guide my actions in every situation. In short, he suggested that I develop a personal brand. As a career marketer, it made perfect sense, and I wondered how I’d not thought of this before.

Companies have long benefitted from clearly defining their brands. Your brand differentiates you from the competition, attracts others with shared values, serves as a rubric for making important decisions, and helps others understand what’s important to you and what to expect from you. Doesn’t this sound like something we all need, especially in tumultuous times? So, I applied the same professional rigor to this process, as I had for countless clients. The result was a set of core tenets that succinctly reflected who I am: I’m a Visionary. I’m Strong. I Care.

These principles help inform how I navigate life:

  • Because I’m a visionary: I don’t wallow in the challenges of any given moment because I know there’s much more to my story. I architect and pursue future opportunities for myself and others.
  • Because I’m strong: I am internally motivated, results-oriented, and tenacious. I take calculated risks, and maintain a sense of humor and optimism, even when faced with obstacles.
  • Because I care: I put all of my effort and resources towards everything I do, whether it’s a project, a role, or a relationship. I consider the position, motives and perceptions of others before passing judgment or reacting.

When I truly live my personal brand, it feels good. It feels authentic. That’s when you know it’s right.

Defining your corporate brand

The process for developing a corporate brand is slightly different than building one’s personal brand, but the benefits are just as valuable, if not more so.

Companies who had established a clearly defined brand prior to the COVID-19 pandemic had a strong platform from which to speak when the crisis hit. They didn’t need to find their voice amongst the backdrop of continuous political and corporate messages. Instead, they focused on serving and supporting their customers from an already-established footing, and on supporting their employees. Which brings me to my next point.

Employer and Corporate Brand Connection

Now, more than ever, companies are realizing that their businesses are not made up of human resources; they’re made up of humans. When you’re on a video call and you see your team members in their homes and with their families, you can’t ignore the context they come with. They become people, as well as employees.

So how do you strike the balance between caring about your corporate brand as well as your people –especially during challenging times? Aligning your employer and corporate brands can go a long way towards bridging the gap. Synchronicities and efficiencies come as a result of everyone rowing in the same direction.

At Retina, for example, we have a single set of brand values, which we call “promises.” We adhere to these covenants both internally and externally:

  • We aim to inspire
  • We are courageous
  • We are always learning
  • We always have perspective
  • We get it done

By promoting your company’s core values during the hiring process, you will increase the likelihood that you will attract – and retain – people who share those values. When this happens, there’s a high probability that those people will, in turn, organically personify those values when interacting with your customers.

Simply put: the values that you want projected in the marketplace are the ones you need to foster in the workplace.

Employer and employee brand connection

From an employer’s perspective, it just makes good sense that the people you bring in to represent and amplify your brand actually resonate with it. When your team organically aligns with your company’s core tenets, you can feel confident that they’re focusing on the things that matter most, especially in a remote working situation. And when a crisis hits and you need to respond quickly, you can focus on supporting your people as they take decisive action (versus wasting time and effort helping them understand what those actions even are). From an employee’s perspective, you can’t work for a company that aligns with your personal brand if you aren’t clear on what your brand is.

Whether you’re an employee architecting your next career move, a company carving out (or elevating) your space in the marketplace, or an employer seeking your next critical hire, the act of defining – and then communicating – your brand might just be the most powerful exercises you undertake this year.

How does your brand measure up? Let’s continue the conversation.

Lynn Kozak

Managing Partner, Retina

Lynn has over 20 years’ of marketing experience in sectors as distinct as technology, media, sports & entertainment, not-for-profit, government, packaged goods, software, and more. Her contributions in these various sectors have earn her a National Sports Forum’s ADchievement Award, Mobius Award, New York Festival Award, Summit Creative Award, and RSVP Award. Her formal education includes a mix of degrees and certifications in Project Management, Marketing, Leadership, Business Administration, Innovation, and English Literature.

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